Kids stay calm under pressure at Augusta National

April 8, 2019

AUGUSTA — Matthew Vital has been trying to make it to Augusta National just about every year since the Drive Chip and Putt National Finals have been held there.

He finally did this year, and on Sunday he made the most of his opportunity. Vital stayed calm under pressure on the 18th green after watching some of his opponents put on an impressive putting display.

The Bethlehem, Pa. native drained his first putt, a 30-footer. Then it was all about keeping his composure.

“I was really nervous,” Vital said. “When I made the putt I was just thinking ‘stay calm and get it within 5 feet on the next one.’”

He hit it within 4 feet and finished second in the putting portion of the competition to win the overall title by 2.5 points and become the national champion for the 12-13 age group.

“I’m really happy that I performed well, because this is my first time. I’ve been trying to get here,” Vital said.

He wasn’t the only winner who dazzled on the 18th green en route to a victory. Sophia Li did the same in the girls’ 10-11 age group. She drained both of her putts to clinch the national championship. She defeated Ariana Silva by one point. Silva won the driving and chipping portion of the competition.

“I was definitely shocked (to make the first putt). The greens at Augusta are especially fast, so I was shocked,” Li said “When I stepped up for the second one, I had to make sure to calm down for that. When I made the second I had all kinds of thoughts race through my mind, but I still had to wait for people behind me to go. So it was ‘stay calm.’”

Sunday’s other national champions were Angela Zhang (Girls 7-9), Yana Wilson (Girls 12-13), Nicole Gal (Girls 14-15), Connor Ford (Boys 7-9), Sahish Reddy (Boys 10-11) and Treed Huang (Boys 14-15).